- Meet America’s least sympathetic undecided voter.
- The patent as sword.
- Mitt Romney is a selfish jerk because he once took on a home improvement project on his own instead of hiring someone else to do it. Or Something. I hear there are also some wealthy people who change their own oil. Monsters, all of them.
- This week in innocence: North Carolina man cleared after serving 24 years for a rape he didn’t commit.
- The “first world problems” meme is getting a bit tired. But if ever there were one . . .
- Headline of the day.
- Man gets a visit from the FBI after photographing a thunderstorm.
Monday, October 8, 2012
This St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist appears to be upset that some people are criticizing his local law enforcement professionals for possibly profiling, making illegal traffic stops, and performing illegal searches—all in an effort to seize property from low level drug offenders.
You’d think a journalist would see a possible story here—an opportunity to do some reporting. Maybe he could actually look into Terrance Huff’s allegations instead of mocking them. Maybe he could use his column to see if these sorts of stops have happened to other people. Maybe, you know, at least pretend that he’s holding his local public officials accountable. Maybe he could investigate why a cop with a history like Michael Reichert’s is still on the police force. Maybe look into how these drug dogs are actually used, and whether their “alerts” should really be enough to justify a police officer rummaging through personal belongings.
Maybe that’s asking too much of Pat Gauen. But if he takes his job as a journalist seriously, you’d think he’d do some reporting. Instead, he wrote a column about something he saw on TV, then gave his local public officials a forum to slag a guy whose rights may have been violated.
And here I thought it was we Internet journalists who just sit in our basements opining about stuff, while the newspaper generation goes out and does all the real reporting.
Saturday, October 6, 2012
This apparently was an ABC pilot that was never picked up.
Still looks better than Two and a Half Men.
- EU gender equity regulations mean women will be paying more for car insurance.
- NYPD cops run over a man, killing him. The department then sends his mother a bill to repair the police car.
- “Well this is awkward.”
- Another isolated incident: “Salt Lake police raid wrong home, point gun at elderly woman”
- Government is just a name for the things we do together. Like poison black people in St. Louis.
- Cop does not shoot dog.
Friday, October 5, 2012
Here’s the great Old Crow Medicine Show (minus
Willy Willie Watson, sadly) recording a live cut off their new album here in Nashville.
- Interesting article on Wikipedia’s reluctance to let go of accepted but false historical narratives.
- Police raid on child porn suspect ends in gunfire, wounded suspect, and wounded officer. Use of the word “stormed” makes me suspect they didn’t announce themselves. You don’t have to sympathize with the suspect (if the charges are true, I certainly don’t) to understand why this is such a dumb tactic. For example, look at the interrior wallof a Redditor who (claims he) lives next to the suspect.
- Schrödinger’s cat’s lives.
- Mother Jones tries to link an alleged rise in mass shootings to increased gun ownership. Michael Siegel lets all the air out of that claim here. It’s also worth pointing out that Mother Jones is wrong not just on the analysis, but on the facts. Gun ownership is actually down. As is the overall crime rate. As is support for gun control. Which is to say I doubt there’s a link between guns and crime at all—positive or negative.
- Suspect that Baltimore police claim died from choking on drugs while in custody actually died of blunt force trauma.
- Fun gallery of hyperphotos from Slate.
- Another isolated incident.
- Probably the most outrageous thing you’ll read today: Sarasota, Florida sheriff tries to trick pain patients into signing away their Fourth Amendment rights.
- Some judges are finally started to question police officer claims of superhuman ability to sniff out marijuana.
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
- The Washington Times makes the mistake of asking John Stossel to introduce Donald Rumsfeld at one of those self-congratulatory D.C. events. The night then goes delightfully off-script.
- Admit it. You want a president who isn’t afraid to do a little crowd surfing.
- On the other hand, Kerry Howley makes the strongest argument for a Marxist candidate you’re ever going to read. The outrage from the earnest Slate commenters is especially precious.
- Debate questions for Obama about Libya. (That will almost certainly never actually be asked of him.)
- Congressional report finds that anti-terrorism “fusion centers” trespass on civil liberties, produce very little counter-terrorism intelligence.
- Headline of the day: Mr. Wu edition.
- This takes an unexpectedly dark turn.
- Regulation in action: Food truck shut down for lacking a permit that doesn’t exist.
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Most of you have probably seen this video by now. It was taken in Philadelphia. I’ll just make the obvious point others have already made: Even assuming the woman had been the one who threw water/silly string on the cop, the reaction should at least get him fired. And probably prosecuted. That it doesn’t appear to have been her makes it worse, but is kinda’ beside the point.
- In Camden, the police union has negotiated bonus pay for cops who work night shifts. They’ve also negotiated bonus pay for cops who work day shifts. And thanks to sick and vacation day benefits, about a third of the force doesn’t show up for work each day. Mysteriously, the city is plagued by crime and debt.
- Happy first anniversary of the death of free checking! Thanks Dodd-Frank, for making banking more expensive for poor people!
- Always know where the camera is.
- TSA agent convicted of stealing from passengers says stealing from passengers is common.
- Consensus on the coming pension crisis: Basically, we’re all screwed.
- Headline of the day.
- Of possible interest to my fellow napping aficionados.
- The Pentagon is working to make killer drones “sentient.” I don’t see any possible downside, here.
- Fellow libertarians: You’ve been doing it wrong. There are two possible explanations, here. Either the government deliberately spread the false rumor that tin foil hats block mind-control rays in order to make it easier to manipulate us, or the government is behind this bogus study, because it fears that tin foil hats are an obstacle to taking over our minds. I happen to know which of these scenarios is correct. But you’ll have to subscribe to my mimeographed newsletter to find out.
Monday, October 1, 2012
So last night’s season premiere of The Good Wife was almost a word-for-word adaptation of my piece on the Terrance Huff traffic stop for Huffington Post from earlier this year. Everything from the setting (Madison County, Illinois) to the falsely alerting drug dog, the bad cop, the illegal traffic stop, the illegal search, the forfeiture corridor, it was all in there. They even threw in a little twist about recording cops in Illinois. They also mentioned Huff’s video, “Breakfast in Collinsville.”
You can watch the entire episode here. But here’s a clip of the scene with the stop:
Friday, September 28, 2012
From the Facebook page of the Kennebec County, Maine Sheriff’s Office.
Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office and the Augusta Police Department have been working collaboratively by combining resources such as our Special Response Team. This pic was taken recently by staff at the Kennebec Journal as the two teams trained together for tactical approaches and tactical entries. Lookin’ sharp, guys!
- Another major publication runs an essay calling for censorship. I wonder if these speech trolls will also advocate the censorship of radical Muslims whose speech is offensive to Jews, gays, women, atheists, and just about everyone who isn’t a radical Muslim. Do they get a pass? What if I’m offended by censorship? Does that count?
- Photos from inside North Korea’s creepiest building.
- Ken at Popehat: How I Convicted A Man For Helping Terrorists Who Now Aren’t Terrorists
- Further adventures in taxicab protectionism.
- Your latest crime lab scandal: St. Paul, Minnesota.
- Puppycide. Cop hops fence while looking for a bike thief, kills dog protecting its yard.
- “The most transparent administration in history.”
- Glenn Greenwald on Shakir Hamoodi, currently in prison for ensuring his family in Iraq didn’t starve to death while the U.S. was imposing sanctions on Saddam Hussein.
It’s a Joe Henry kind of morning.
Thursday, September 27, 2012
- “GMO Opponents Are the Climate Skeptics of the Left” – Yep. And people are unnecessarily starving to death because of it.
- Due to recent events, The Almighty Muhammad’s Porkalicious Toon Jihad has been cancelled.
- I’ve addressed this issue here in the past, but yesterday, USA Today ran a front-page story on how convicts who get released after serving their sentences usually get more government aid than the wrongly convicted.
- Brazil has a law prohibiting anyone from criticizing a politician around election day. How backward of them!
- Headline of the day.
- “The video is one of the most troubling things I have ever seen. It’s simply unconscionable to watch what happens in the back of that squad car.”
- The only remaining certified police officer in the town of Vaughn, New Mexico is the drug dog.
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
I just did my first segment on HuffPost, along with one-time Agitator guest blogger Alyona Minkovski and friend-of-the-Agitator Jack Cole, one of the co-founders of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
The topic was terrorism and the drug war.
You can watch here.
Flemington, New Jersey has all of 4,500 people. It hasn’t seen a murder in well over a decade.
But it does have its own SWAT team. And now the town wants to buy assault rifles for its regular patrol cops, too.
Here’s a photo of the SWAT team, taken during a raid last June.
Monday, September 24, 2012
- 83-year-old Virginia woman shot, killed by police after she called them to report someone breaking into her home.
- “It’s not for the American government to regret what American citizens do. “
- This year’s Ig Nobel Prize winners. My favorite: MEDICINE PRIZE: Emmanuel Ben-Soussan and Michel Antonietti [FRANCE] for advising doctors who perform colonoscopies how to minimize the chance that their patients will explode.
- Police officer lures actual vicious dog away from family, manages to not fire a single bullet.
- Slowly poking holes in the veil of infallibility of fingerprint evidence.
- Houston cop shoots, kills wheelchair-bound double amputee who was wielding a pen.
- Headline of the day.
- Governments lie.
- Mosque leader tries to dissuade teen from turning to terrorism . . . even as the FBI was encouraging him.
Saturday, September 22, 2012
Many thanks to all the folks who guest blogged these last six weeks or so: Eapen Thampy, Lenore Skenazy, Jason Kuznicki, William Anderson, and the folks at LEAP.
- “A full 53% of participants argued unequivocally for the opposite of their original attitude in at least one of the manipulated statements . . . “
- Under federal hate crimes law, Amish men face decades in prison for forcibly cutting the beards of other Amish men.
- Update from Rome: The three wealthiest counties in the country are now in the D.C. suburbs. And seven of the top 10.
- In Alabama: A guns-drawn raid over home brewing equipment.
- Step one: Capitulate to the teachers’ union in the largest city in your state. Step two: Ask the rest of America to guarantee your state’s $200 billion pension gap.
- Headline of the day.
- Puppycide: Illinois cop investigates a stolen ladder. Goes to the wrong house. Shoots, kills the family dog. Which was fenced in its own yard. And chained.
- All over three Adderall pills.
- Stop quoting Oliver Wendel Holmes, Jr. in defense of your censorious bullshit. In fact, stop quoting Oliver Wendell Holmes for anything. He was a racist, eugenicist, authoritarian asshole. I’ve never understood why progressives have thought so highly of him, back then, or now.
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Thanks to the hard work of Americans for Forfeiture Reform policy analyst Scott Meiner, AFR has been asked to submit an amicus brief in an asset forfeiture case that is being appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Below is a brief video I’ve made describing the case (yes, I know the video quality isn’t great; we haven’t had the money for a HD camera yet):
Meiner describes the Terrence Durr seizure and litigation in his post, “A Peculiar Idea of Proof“:
United States District Judge Clay D. Land has ordered the forfeiture of $21,175 seized from two ex-convicts by Deputy Drew Crane, of the Harris County, Georgia, Sheriff’s Office.
Neither of the men were convicted, arrested, or charged. No drugs or drug paraphernalia were reported on the men from whom the currency was seized. The claimant of the currency, Terrance Durr, has a 1996 felony drug conviction and a subsequent parole violation. Durr also has documented gainful employment–including an 8 year work history as a draft technician with Adam’s Beverage, an Anheuser Busch distributor.
The government presented no specific cognizable evidence of any drug transaction (or intended drug transaction) linking the currency to any specific illicit behavior. Durr presented evidence of why he had a substantial amount of cash on his person. The court found Durr’s evidence, and reasoning, unpersuasive.
What the ruling appears to boil down to is
- Durr is an ex-con;
- Durr had a fairly large amount of currency;
- The police wanted his currency;
- The police found his currency;
- Police recorded a positive K9 alert on his currency and on his companion’s vehicle;
- The officer said that the vehicle smelled of alcohol and marijuana;
- Durr cannot prove that his money was not intended, or derived from, something to do with drugs to the satisfaction of the court; and
- Thus, the government has “proved” that Durr’s cash constitutes proceeds traceable to an exchange for a controlled substance.
This is utter nonsense.
Durr may have intended to use the money for narcotics. Or perhaps he was going to do something else. We do not know. Nobody else knows either–except maybe Terrance Durr.
Durr presented evidence that he intended to travel to Atlanta, GA to negotiate with a bank on the imminent foreclosure of a dilapidated rental property that he owned. Prosecutors easily poked holes in the sensibility of his plan. However, they failed to offer evidence that the money was drug related–unless we are to assume that the means, a criminal record, and unreliable evidence meet the burden. Following this standard of proof would add a lot of forfeiture victims.
There are infinite possibilities as to how he got the money and to what he intended to do with it–whether they be licit or illicit. But reasonable jurisprudence ought to tether forfeiture to a showing of substantial connection between specific articulated criminal acts and proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
AFR’s amicus brief will likely focus on the insufficiency of the nexus issue (that is to say, the complete government’s inability to establish a nexus between any crime and the seized cash and Judge Land’s breathtaking leaps of logic to justify the forfeiture).
Via Mason Tvert, who is one of the organizers of the Colorado initiative “Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol”, and apparently is tired of all the marijuana-related SWAT dog shootings that are second nature to American law enforcement:
-More asset forfeiture posts later today. -Eapen Thampy
Monday, September 17, 2012
- Here’s the most important column you should read today. Oddly enough, the word poll appears nowhere in the text! It’s Tyler Cowen on stalled progress in the fight against world hunger.
- The Justice Department files suit against a bank for the crime of lending prudently.
- Ezra Klein on the carbon tax. This is a tax that I, a libertarian, support. Someday, when I’m done writing this book, I’ll put up a post explaining why.
- This seems like a weird fight for Facebook to be picking.
- Andrew Ferguson destroys the latest fawning presidential profile.
- New Mexico, which doesn’t recognize same sex marriages, fines a photographer who refused to photograph a same sex wedding.
- Congress passes a warrantless wiretapping bill despite having no idea what it actually does. The lede to the linked story also works with almost any other story.
- The real causes of Muslim protests.
- Lots and lots and lots and lots of great photos of dogs.
Sunday, September 16, 2012
American prosecutors hold enormous amounts of authority and the courts have deferred to them at every step. Even when there is prosecutorial misconduct or when prosecutors bring cases to trial while knowing they have no evidence, they almost never are punished. Only the innocent, who often have to spend themselves into financial oblivion to defend themselves, are made to pay a price.
Last week, a West Virginia jury acquitted former teacher Autumn Rae Faulkner of having sex three times with a 15-year-old student. What is remarkable is the jury was out only for an hour before returning the acquittal, and anyone who has served on a jury knows that when someone is acquitted that quickly, jurors knew almost from the start that the prosecution had a false case.
In a blog post elsewhere, I bring up the question of what should happen to prosecutors who do this sort of thing? A judge earlier in the case had dismissed the original charges because prosecutors had illegally withheld exculpatory evidence, and for spite, the prosecution got a second set of indictments. Why? As far as I can tell, Steven Jory, the special prosecutor hired by the State of West Virginia to oversee the case, did it because he could do it. After all, Jory did not have to spend a dime of his own money while Faulkner and her family had to spend nearly all they had.
Because the U.S. Supreme Court has given prosecutors absolute immunity from lawsuits from private citizens, it is up to government authorities to discipline their own, and the government’s record in that department is abysmal. Defenders of the high court’s rulings say that prosecutors must be free to perform their jobs, and they should be free to make honest errors of judgment, even if the results are tragic.
Such a viewpoint is far to rosy for me. As Lord Acton famously wrote, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” In a just system, Faulkner should be free to sue Jory and his staff into oblivion, especially since there will be no disciplinary action from state officials. Jory’s recklessness and abuse of power in a case in which he not only had zero credible evidence, but also suborned perjury should have a better outcome than his going to the office the next day to see who next to prosecute.
In the meantime, Faulkner must pick up the pieces. She was accused of being a sexual predator, had her mug shot plastered throughout the media and the Internet, lost her teaching job, and was the subject of vile abuse from authorities, along with people who immediately assumed she was guilty. Even though the prosecution’s case was weak from the beginning, nonetheless she is the one who pays the price while the real lawbreakers are free to abuse both the law and innocent people again and again. If this is the best that the American system of “justice” can do, then it is a system that is not worth supporting and certainly not worth saving.
Update: The original prosecutor in the case, Richard T. Busch, was found to have engaged in misconduct that apparently was so bad that even West Virginia authorities no longer could cover for him. This website referred to Busch as a “congentital liar,” and The Record, West Virginia’s legal journal, reported last June that the “Lawyer Disciplinary Board, the prosecutorial arm of the state Supreme Court, filed a two-count statement of charges Feb. 13 against Richard T. Busch.”
The article is worth reading if only to see just how dishonest Busch really is. Randolph Circuit Judge Jaymie Godwin Wilfong finally acted against him after he lied to her in open court in the Faulkner case and in another one.
What is shocking to me, after reading this, is that the State of West Virginia continued to pursue criminal charges against Faulkner even though the state had no evidence other than the boy’s shifting claims of sex. Prosecutors should only bring charges when they themselves are absolutely convinced of the defendant’s guilt and the evidence is clear. Instead, West Virginia authorities continued to push the charges against Faulkner and ultimately ran into a brick wall, which jurors easily exposed.
Busch at the very least deserves to be disbarred and probably should be charged criminally. However, given the state of cronyism and corruption that infects West Virginia, I will be surprised if any real discipline is meted out to Busch at all.
– William Anderson
Saturday, September 15, 2012
Arizona’s child-welfare agency has discovered a computer glitch that officials say kept public records from parents, lawyers and others for more than 15 years, a malfunction that could have led to children being wrongly removed and prevented caregivers from supporting civil claims against the state.
“If a case got to the wrong result because information wasn’t disclosed, that’s a big, big problem,” said Mark Kennedy, who has represented about 400 parents over the past three years. “To me, it’s pretty significant when CPS says we’re going to contact 21,000 lawyers. That’s like saying, ‘Start searching your case files because there may be some problems out there.’ “
The top official at the state laboratory that mishandled drug samples has resigned, and another lab executive has been fired, state law enforcement and health authorities announced Thursday, the latest development in an unfolding scandal.f
The lab officials failed to detect obvious signs of problems with a chemist’s work involving drug samples from criminal cases, state executives said at a Beacon Hill press conference. They compounded that error by making the “poor decision” to wait six months to alert the state’s public health commissioner once problems were identified, said Dr. JudyAnn Bigby, secretary of health and human services in the Patrick administration . . .
The chemist, who worked at the Jamaica Plain lab from 2003 until she quit in March, handled 60,000 samples, potentially imperiling 34,000 criminal cases. Officials have not publicly named the chemist, but authorities familiar with the investigation identified her as Annie Dookhan.
Problems with the chemist were discovered in June 2011, according to state officials, but lab directors did not bring those issues to the attention of Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach until December.
Here’s how we can make this sort of thing less common.
Pretty sure this one is a shoe-in for next year’s “Best Short Film Shot by a Seagull” Oscar.